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Can You Turn Wood on a Metal Lathe? (Quick Answers)

Lathe indeed is a highly effective process to cut and mould shapes. The lathe continuously and quickly rotates and builds your desired shape. The process is really fast, saves time, requires less energy and also leaves a great finish. 

But can you turn wood on a metal lathe? Let’s find out below.

Can you turn wood on a metal lathe?

A metal lathe is capable of turning wood with sufficient handling. In fact, turning woods in a metal lathe usually results in a more accurate and precise dimension of the wood piece in less time, and hardwoods that are difficult to turn in wood lathes prove to be great in metal lathes.

Metal lathes work great in turning wood. Even hardwoods like rosewood and ebony can also be turned on a metal lathe. A metal lathe is a superb solution for achieving a precise and consistent wood dimension. 

The metal lathe cutter produces good results and takes less time to turn, manufacture, and cut wood objects. The headstock of a metal lathe deals with wood handling, making wood turning easier, and the wood rest makes wood management faster. 

Metal lathes can cut and curve wood better than wood lathes. Metal lathe durability in turning woods has an impact on project completion. 

When turning strong woods, a metal lathe is a great choice because it has more strength, but softer woods require a little more care to achieve a perfect handcraft. The metal lathe offers an adjustable heat setting for turning wood, as well as a high level of accuracy and functionality. 

Metal lathes make turning long wood pieces easier. By using a metal lathe, you can collect wood chips with less effort. Furthermore, metal lathes with back gear create slower speeds, resulting in a better surface polish when turning wood. 

Metal lathes have less vibration, which makes it easier to operate the steady woods. Due to the greater strength of metal lathes, the force may destroy soft woods; hence, hardwoods are chosen for crafting and shaping on metal lathes. 

Metal lathes, on the other hand, produce more precise results than wood lathes.

Will turning wood on a metal lathe cause damage to the lathe? 

In most cases, mild turning of wood on a metal lathe does not harm the machine, but excess shaving can harm the carriage. To avoid any harm while turning the wood, a metal lathe with rotating cutting tools is usually sufficient. 

However, if the wood dust is not cleaned after each turning, it can act as an abrasive and cause corrosion in the metal lathe, despite the fact that turning wood in a metal lathe is not an issue. 

If the woods are not carefully positioned in the metal lathe, they can be damaged, as soft woods are prone to breaking due to the metal lathe’s high strength. Hardwoods, on the other hand, are safe to turn on a metal lathe. 

However, because sanding abrasives are produced during turning and cutting, regular turning of wood may reduce the working efficiency of a metal lathe. It is necessary to clean the wood chips on a regular basis in order to avoid any damage to the lathe.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of turning wood on a metal lathe? 

Metal lathe is great at handling hardwoods and giving precise dimensions. The finishing tool cuts the wood pieces to the same diameter and produces a smooth surface finish, which is not possible in a wood lathe. 

But it also has disadvantages as the intricate mechanism of a metal lathe is quite difficult to use and it’s not cost-effective. 

The advantages of metal lathes are given below: 

Handling hardwoods: 

Metal lathes work better handling hardwoods and unsteady wood pieces. You can even easily handle maple, rosewood, ebony or walnut woods for giving the desired shape. 

Obtaining precise dimensions: 

For achieving a precise and consistent wood dimension, there’s no more convenient lathe than the metal lathes. In a metal lathe, rotating tools are used to obtain the correct dimension in each turn, which saves time by reducing additional working hours. 

More forceful rotation: 

Because metal lathes are stronger, they can rotate more powerfully in less time. The rough turning tool on a metal lathe quickly transforms the wood by eliminating as much as possible.

The disadvantages of metal lathes are given below

Difficult to use: 

The process can be tricky for beginners. They may find this metal lathe spinning mechanism challenging to handle.

More Expensive: 

Metal lathes are more expensive than wood lathes for turning wood because they require many tools for precision cutting.

Soft wood breakage: 

Soft wood shatters easily when turned on a powerful metal lathe. Apart from that, wood chips or dust must be cleaned with each turn, or else working would be tough. As a result, while turning soft woods on a metal lathe, greater attention is required.

Wood lathes vs Metal lathes: What’s the difference for turning wood?

Here’s given the difference for turning wood on both wood and metal lathes: 


For turning or deforming woods, the most effective one is wood lathes because they are specially designed only for the wooden work piece. 

However, metal lathes can work both on wooden or metal applications but it’s not as effective as wood lathes for turning wood. 


In general, metal lathes are excessively powerful compared to the wood lathes as they are designed not only for working on wood pieces but also for many complicated surfaces as well like steel, iron or aluminum.

Whereas the wood lathes are more simple and less powerful.


Though wood lathes give a good finish, metal lathes leave a better surface polish when turning wood.


Wood turning requires great speed for a better result. Wood lathes can fulfill the requirements whereas metal lathes have limits and they can only run 1000 rpm or lower on wood.


Having similar capacities and features, metal lathes cost more than the wood lathes. But  wood lathes provide additional tooling necessaries than wood lathes.


Installing metal lathes can be less convenient compared to wood lathes. However, working on a metal lathe takes less time to turn and manufacture.

How do you hold the wood in a metal lathe? 

Using metal lathes is a great choice as it gives a more accurate and precise dimension of the wood piece in less time. It also allows you to modify the wood item according to your preferences while wasting less material. 

Also, hardwoods that are difficult to turn in wood lathes prove to be great in metal lathes. But the woods need to be positioned correctly and carefully. 

In fact, metal lathe have excessive strength and if woods are not correctly positioned, soft woods will be broken or damaged. 

To correctly position the wood first find the center of wood very carefully and secure the screw in the center. Then set the wood in the spindle by taking your tail stock. Tighten it up and carefully put it on the hole. Secure the wood by turning it in. 

How to turn wood on a metal lathe? 

To obtain a precise dimension in less time and with greater accuracy, the wood must be turned on a metal lathe using a manual technique. Special tools, including sandpaper, spinning, and drilling tools, are also required. The expertise to turn wood on a metal lathe is also required. 

To begin the procedure, the most important consideration is safety. Eye protector glasses and gloves must be worn to protect the eyes and hands. 

Set the speed: 

It is suggested that you turn slowly. The lathe must be adjusted at a slow rate to produce a large diameter of turns. Increased spinning could result in more vibration. The drive belt on the motor is usually fixed when the speed is fixed. 

The variable-speed metal lathe should be used to achieve a wider range of adjustment while turning wood. It is also easier to use. To cut it to the right dimension, the wood piece must be placed in the center.

Using turning tools: 

Before turning the metal lathe, the wood item must be turned first. Spindle gauges are commonly used to turn the spindles. Shew chisels are used to turn spindles for a smooth cut. They have a cutting edge for a shearing cut. 

Long-term practice is required to use this instrument. On spindles rotating, some parting tools are employed to make cutting depths. Beginners should start turning between centers using stock that is longer than wide. 

For improved grip, the chuck should be attached to the headstock.

Sandpaper shaping: 

The next step is to use sandpaper to remove the rough surfaces and complete the whole process.

Final Thoughts

For handling hardwoods and giving precise dimensions metal lathes are great. It makes wood management faster and works well in producing a smooth surface finish. But it can be harsh on woods and so, rigorous cleaning is required to avoid corroding while turning wood on metal lathes.